MIAMI – Timberwolves players and coaches flailed their arms in exasperation often late in Friday night’s game at Miami, demonstrating their feelings repeatedly about NBA officiating and the league’s star system.
But sometimes things just even out, don’t they? They certainly seemed to with a 122-121 double-overtime victory over the two-time defending champion Heat that Wolves point guard Ricky Rubio called “awesome.”
For the second time in three nights, the Wolves won a game they had little reason to — other than personal pride and professionalism. Two nights after bumping back Memphis in its playoff push, they stopped the Heat’s four-game winning streak by prevailing in a game that seemingly had been won many times over.
“It just shows the guys are competing,” Wolves coach Rick Adelman said just seven games away from season’s end. “They want to finish the season off well, and to get a win like this on the road against the world champs, it says a lot.”
The Wolves started the night without starting center Nikola Pekovic, starting guard Kevin Martin and reserve forward Dante Cunningham in the lineup, lost rookie Shabazz Muhammad to a knee injury after he played just three minutes in the second quarter and saw Luc Mbah a Moute disqualified with 2:24 left in the game after he made every single foul possible attempting to defend Miami superstar LeBron James, who scored 34 points nonetheless.
But they persevered, beating a Heat team missing injured star Dwyane Wade when Corey Brewer made one of two free throws with 1.8 seconds remaining after he drew a foul call as questionable as the many the Wolves flailed their arms about earlier.
“Great call, great call,” Brewer said, a smiling sneaking across his face. “He pushed me in the back. I made the free throw to win the game.”
In a game like this — one with 21 lead changes, when Kevin Love’s step-back three pointer at the fourth-quarter buzzer went into the basket and came spinning out, and when Heat guard Mario Chalmers could have ended it twice by making a single free throw — you almost expected Miami veteran Ray Allen to make a desperation shot lofted high over Love at the final buzzer.
“He has done that plenty of times, and he’s done it on the biggest stage,” Love said, referring to Allen’s three-pointer that rescued the Heat from series-ending Game 6 defeat in last summer’s NBA Finals against San Antonio. “When Ray got that shot off, I looked at that trajectory and said, ‘Oh, god.’ But it was short and I was thankful for that.”
Love thought he had won the game outright 10 minutes before that with his three-point shot at the fourth-quarter buzzer, just four seconds after Chalmers missed a free throw and then made one to tie the game at 97.
“It went all the way to the bottom of the net,” Brewer said, “and then popped up.”
So the two teams went to overtime and Chalmers had a chance at period’s end to win the game but once again missed one free throw and made one that tied the score at 109.
“I pride myself on being a clutch player,” said Chalmers, whose three-point shot effectively won the 2008 NCAA title for Kansas. “I feel like I let my team down. I missed the two most important ones.”
The Heat led by four points in the second overtime’s opening minute and still led by three points with 1:11, but the Wolves scored seven of the next eight points to take a 121-118 lead with 13 seconds left before Chris Bosh’s three-pointer tied the score yet again fewer than three seconds later.
Determined not to let Love get one more point on a 28-point night, the Heat defense collapsed on him in the game’s final ticking seconds, so he lobbed the ball high to Brewer open in the lane and Brewer hustled a desperate shot himself over his head as Miami guard Norris Cole battled him from behind.
The whistle blew and it turns out, Brewer only needed to make the first of two free throws to win the game. The Heat had a timeout but only 1.4 seconds left to launch a desperate shot.
“After I made the first one, I wasn’t really worried about the second one,” Brewer said. “I’ll take my chances on that. I’ll take those chances any day. … It felt like we won the game about six times. We’re lucky and happy to go home with a win.”